Common Reasons Older Adults End Up in the Emergency Room

Common Reasons Older Adults End Up in the Emergency Room

September 9, 2021

Older adults go to emergency rooms more than any other age group, with about one-quarter of seniors ending up there at least once. There’s a variety of reasons older adults find themselves in the ER, and Heather Glen Senior Living has compiled a list of five common contributors.  

Post-Fall Injury 

As your loved ones get older, they’ll become more prone to falls—and according to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people over the age of 65. Many factors contribute to the increase in fall risk, including eye health, medication side effects, memory loss and more. 

Heart Disease 

Heart disease encompasses several types of conditions, but the most common type in the U.S. is coronary artery disease. Cardiovascular problems are often experienced by older adults, as many issues develop during age progression. Symptoms of a heart problem include shortness of breath, exhaustion and severe chest pain—but many people don’t know they’re suffering from heart disease until they end up in the emergency room after a heart attack, arrhythmia or the onset of heart failure. 


Strokes are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, but long-term damage can often be avoided if treated quickly. Many older adults end up in the emergency room when they experience sudden numbness and weaknesses in the leg, arm or face, confusion, trouble speaking, vision blur, dizziness, loss of balance or a sudden and severe headache—all of which are tell-tale signs of a stroke.  

Reactions to Medication 

Millions of older adults arrive at emergency rooms due to an adverse reaction to a prescribed medication. Even when taken at the right time in the right dosage, common drugs like aspirin, blood thinner, insulin injections and oral diabetes drugs can cause a serious reaction. Additionally, forgetting to take medications puts seniors at risk for an unplanned hospital visit. 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is the fourth-leading cause of death, although its progressive nature means it’s often undetectable in early stages. COPD is an inflammatory disease that limits airflow to the lungs, and is especially prominent in older adults (with an even higher risk for women). Risk factors include smoking, family history, exposure to lung irritations, asthma and more, but symptoms can often be mistaken for less threatening illnesses. Coughing, shortness of breath and fatigue are often the only signs, so people don’t end up in the ER until it’s progressed. 

Keep Your Loved One Out of the ER

Now that you know the leading causes of trips to the emergency room for seniors, you might be wondering the best ways to prevent them. While your loved one might not want to hear it, the easiest way to prevent ER visits is by living in a personal care community—but not all of these communities are created equal. 

Heather Glen Senior Living is the premier personal care community in Lehigh Valley, offering a living environment that provides a sense of independence while still having the 24/7 care staff needed to keep your loved one safe and out of the emergency room. Our staff of experts and visiting physicians will always be on the lookout for the slightest signs of illness, and thoughtfully designed rooms and common spaces can help prevent falls. 

Don’t wait until after your loved one ends up in the ER to make a change. Contact Heather Glen Senior Living today to schedule a tour and learn more about how we help older adults stay safe, happy and independent. 

Ask Kim & Jessica